Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Instagram Re-Photographer's Copyright Lawsuits

Can you "steal" other people's art and pass it off as your own? U.S. law says yes, if you transform it at least a little bit. Just how "little" you can get away with is what NY fed court considered on Tue, in a case about photographer who makes whole exhibits out of other people's Instagram photos. Richard Prince, a photographer who incorporates other people's photographs into his own exhibits lost his bid in federal court in New York on Tuesday to have a copyright lawsuit against him dismissed.

Here is what this is about. Prince took some photos from his Instagram feed, increased them in size and made a whole exhibit of them without asking the owners' permission. Several artists have sued him for copying their work.

U.S. copyright law allows you to incorporate other people’s work into your own art if you transform the original work enough. How much is “enough”? This is exactly what Richard Prince’s cases test.

He won his previous court case where he copied 30 photos from another photographer’s book, crudely drew over them and published under his own name:

He ended up making over $10 million and the court granted him victory that time because he at least did something transformative (crudely drew over) to 25 of the original photos. But in the case that went forward on Tuesday he did not even bother to transform the plaintiff's photo. He just blew it up and put it into an exhibit. So, it is less likely that he will win this time because there is no material transformation in that photo of Rasta:

The case will be influential regardless of its outcome. One way or the other, it will help set the level of audacity one can legally use to when appropriating other people's photos.